Release Date: April 21, 2009
Own it on Blu-ray and DVD
Director: Darren Aronofsky
Writer: Robert D. Siegel
Stars: Mickey Rourke , Marisa Tomei,
Evan Rachel Wood
MPAA Rating: R
In February, after being somewhat skeptical about all of the acclaim The Wrestler had been receiving, I saw the film and was proud to report that “[director Darren] Aronofsky and writer Robert D. Siegel have actually managed to make a wrestling film that was truly moving and worthy of all of the acclaim it has received.”
Watching the movie a second time on a smaller screen, I am proud to announce that The Wrestler successfully defends its title.
The story of Randy “The Ram” Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a washed-up pro wrestler who is struggling to get by, is still an incredibly gripping and moving one. It’s fascinating and heartbreaking to watch The Ram attempt to maintain a connection with the two women in his life – his estranged daughter Stephanie (Evan Rachel Wood) and an aging stripper named Cassidy (Marisa Tomei) – and attempting to adjust to a life outside of the ring. Watching someone come to terms with the fact that they can no longer do the one thing in life that they truly love is a theme that even non-wrestling fans can relate to. And Mickey Rourke gives such an amazing performance portraying a role he was born to play.
The DVD release comes with two special features, a music video for Bruce Springsteen’s song “The Wrestler” and “Within the Ring,” which is a 40-minute making-of documentary. The Blu-ray version of the film also comes with a “Wrestler Round Table” discussion, which features five former wrestlers talking about the film and their own experiences.
“Within the Ring” is a fairly interesting behind-the-scenes look at what went into making the film. However, “Within the Ring” feels a bit disjointed and thrown together, perhaps because The Wrestler was shot on a small budget. It does give a nice overview of the various locations they shot the film at and has a few interviews with the actual wrestlers who were in the film. The documentary also gives Aronofsky a chance to talk about his interest in wrestling and his reasons for doing the film. It was also interesting to learn through the featurette that Aronofsky allowed Mickey Rourke and the other actors room to improv and even mixed in regular people with actors in the deli scene to add a sense of spontaneity and authenticity.
Sadly, the “Wrestler Round Table” discussion is a waste of time. It features five former wrestlers – Rowdy Roddy Piper, Diamond Dallas Page, Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake, Lex Lugar and Greg “The Hammer” Valentine sitting around a table with a moderator (who comes across like he’s a random Fox employee who got thrown into the mix at the last minute). Having five former wrestlers share their thoughts on the film and telling their own stories could have been really interesting, but the format and the questions asked kept the discussion from being worthwhile. Good intention, bad execution. The most intriguing part of the segment was trying to figure out why both Beefcake and Valentine were wearing trendy Ed Hardy t-shirts, since neither one of the former wrestlers has ever been confused for a fashion maven.
All in all, I was rather disappointed with the special features. I’m really surprised there wasn’t a featurette about Mickey Rourke’s training for the film, which would seem like a no-brainer. Rourke was trained by wrestler Afa the Wild Samoan in preparation for the film, but none of that was shown in the “Within the Ring” documentary. In fact, Rourke and Marissa Tomei weren’t even interviewed for “Within the Ring” (although Rourke’s acting style and at times difficult demeanor were mentioned quite a bit). It seemed odd that they talked to the wrestlers used in the film during the documentary, but not the two stars.
Perhaps budget constraints kept them from being able to go all out with special features or interviews with the stars, but considering this was an Oscar-nominated film that did surprisingly well at the box office, it seems odd that the special features would be so bare-bones. Even adding a few actual matches involving the independent wrestlers used in the film might have spiced up the bonus content quite a bit (and would have been easy to do for little money). All I can think is that somewhere down the line, Fox will release a collector’s edition of the film that comes with bonus features worth watching.
The film itself is strong enough that I highly recommend picking up a copy. However, the lack of quality bonus content is disappointing, which is why I gave the movie a 4.5 rating instead of a perfect 5. Still, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of The Wrestler today.
Written by Joel Murphy. The Wrestler is available now on Blu-ray and DVD.